Archive for February, 2012

CAFO’s in North Carolina Go “Hog Wild”

February 29, 2012


Since the late 1980’s North Carolina hog industry has more than quadrupled its hog population to just over 9 million now ranking the 2nd largest hog farming industry in the United States. Ironically, this increase in hog production was accompanied by a decline in the number of hog farms in the state. It is estimated that over 13,000 family hog farms went out of business in the last twenty years.

photo: Daniel Pepper/Getty Images

Welcome to the age of CAFO’s. These are affectionately called confined animal feeding operations. CAFO’s are part of the industrialized agriculture age, where hundreds of animals are raised in confined spaces, on a small piece of land, stand in their feces and urine and are fed food often containing other animal remnants. The waste of these operations is pumped into large pools called lagoons. The waste of these lagoons are untreated, contain dangerous types of harmful bacteria, antibiotics and hormones that are in turned sprayed on existing nearby crops.

In 1999 Hurricane Floyd hit the eastern coast of N.C. and flooded these lagoons, which contaminated the nearby water supply. Over 10 years ago one of the largest pork producers and packagers in the US, Smithfield entered into an agreement with a NC university to fund the research and development of environmentally superior technologies (EST) to help decrease the production of these waste products. What was the verdict? Nothing. The Clean Hogs Farm Act of 2005, which called for a replacement to EST on existing farms was eventually determined by researchers not to be economically feasible and despite making cost-sharing efforts for farmers with EST the bill never made the cut through the General Assembly of North Carolina. Economically feasible? What about socially responsible and ecologically sound?

CAFO pose serious health and environmental risks. New reports in 2011 show antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus) in Europe, which have been linked to animal feeding operations. More alarming is that even after these antibiotics are stopped there is evidence they are still present in these animals up to 2.5 years! Environmentally, these operations emit toxic particles into the air such as ammonia, microorganisms, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide posing serious health risks to children and the elderly.

Not only does it threaten the air quality but is has been shown that residents living in close proximity to these operations report significant increases in respiratory related complaints such as wheezing, shortness of breath and other respiratory illnesses. In addition, the workers of these operations also report increased respiratory related illnesses. The evidence is mounting for the health dangers with over 70 studies in the U.S., Canada and Europe showing poor health outcomes.

This assembly line production of animals has put the small family farms out of business and has increased the amount of waste to environmental and public heath proportions. These CAFO’s pose a serious health threat to our environment, rural communities and to the people who consume them.


Policy Issues to Start the New Year

February 22, 2012

Normally we run our blog for Social and Behavioral Foundations of Primary Health Care (SBFPHC) during the summer term at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. We are now offering the course in the third term (approximately January – March) in order to give people more opportunities to take this course, which is required for the new Certificate in Global Health that the Department of International Health is offering. You can access information about the certificate at the IH/JHSPH website.

There are three required and two elective courses needed. Applications can be made online. The courses can be taken either for credit (as part of an ongoing academic program, e.g. MPH) or non-credit.

In the meantime, the global health policy community is buzzing about several important issues. First is the major changes at the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and Malaria (GFATM). The Fund cancelled its Round 11 call for proposals and is offering some countries transition funding to maintain coverage of existing interventions. Manor donor inputs are lagging and some may have been scared off by recent reports of grant mismanagement.

The Fund’s Executive Director stepped down in the midst of all this. While the UK, US and Gates Foundations have pledged continued support, we need to examine how policies international development assistance in all major donor countries have been affected.

Another ‘surprise’ that is affecting disease control policy decisions is a new study in the Lancet that basically proposed a doubling of actual malaria cases. While the authors said the trends are still downward, they noted a major underestimation, especially among adults. With international malaria funding in question and greater targets to reach, many people are asking how malaria gains can be sustained.

We expect that participants in SBFPHC to raise equally challenging issues in the blog postings they contribute over the next few weeks.